My first encounter with what I call the black dog was in the early months of 2010, not long after I went off work the previous autumn. I initially rebuffed my GP’s offer of antidepressants. That was partly because of a misplaced idea that it would be an admission of weakness to start taking drugs and a concern that being on them might adversely affect my ability to care for Daphne, who was seriously ill.
Eventually the pressures of caring and the feeling of isolation resulting from having had no contact from work colleagues led me to a point where I felt I needed medication. The first course of tablets the Doctor prescribed made me feel really ill (I can’t remember their name) so she switched me onto a different one. After a few weeks they started to help me cope better and in December of that year when my personal work situation was more or less resolved I felt well enough to stop taking them. Unfortunately I wasn’t told to taper the withdrawal, and going cold turkey was tough. That said, I managed fairly well eventually.
My next encounter with the medication came in January 2015. By then Daphne was in residential care, her condition deteriorating and my attempts to obtain some sort of part time role at my old work were going nowhere. Those were the triggers, this time it took longer for me to feel any real impact. In fact, I would say it was between 12 and 18 months. In addition on this occasion my sleep was badly disturbed and I was also given tablets to help with that. By the summer of 2017 I felt OK and again began the process of coming off the tablets this time in stages. Then my Daphne died which was hard and I started going through a bereavement process. I continued with the withdrawal.
By the summer of 2018 I needed to go back onto the medication again because I was struggling badly. Then in 2019 I finally got a precise diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder which I have written about previously. That helped a lot, and after a long battle to get counselling that helped too. At the same time I had to wean myself off the sleeping tablets on the advice of my GP. I now feel a lot better and am once again considering at what point I can consider an exit strategy. Given my previous experience I am cautious.
This is only a brief outline of my story. A tale with a backdrop of inadequate support from a variety of sources. I tell it because I want others who may suffer with their mental health in the future to be able draw on my experiences, particularly with regard to coming off medication. I also want to be part of the debate about what improvements need to be made in Mental Health provision. I hope to have that in future with fellow Liberals in our party.
* David is a member of Horsham and Crawley Liberal Democrats